Apologies for the delay. A spotty internet signal made posting difficult. But it looks like things are better now and we won’t have to skip a day’s post.
The sun burned away most of yesterday’s cloud cover and brought Zambia temperatures back into the 80s today. The toll of that heat wave is certainly being felt right about now, at 9:30pm on our beds. So I will do my best to fight through the yawns, perhaps sacrificing a few lines of writing and supplementing with more pictures from our day.
Today we set out for the school with clear plans. Story capturing. We wanted to hear from students and teachers at the secondary school. How is it going? What is difficult? What is rewarding? And not just informational interviews, but also learn their backgrounds and interests: what made them excited about teaching or learning?
We arrived mid-morning to find about a dozen men hard at work on secondary school construction projects. In teams of four or five, they were framing windows on the new buildings with iron frames and grates. It was labor intensive work. Chiseling into bricks, hoisting the large window grates up together, leveling surfaces to ensure quality. There is no shortage of effort and dedication in this project.
The atmosphere was quiet around the secondary classrooms when we arrived. Grade 10 and Grade 11 students were in the middle of math tests. Fingers typed away on calculators, pencils scribbled in answers to complex algebra equations. We got a chance to look at a copy of a test…not easy! I was thankful no one asked me to dust off my math skills, because I certainly would have been embarrassed.
After testing, Mr. Simouquay (spelling is so wrong, but it’s pronounced ‘sim-oo-kweye’) helped gather a handful of students in a classroom who didn’t mind being interviewed. We sat in a corner and began chatting with students, who ranged from 15 to 19 years old. Some had just come to Dwankhozi this year. Some travelled nearly 20 kilometers to attend the school, even leaving more developed areas like Chipata. The school’s reputation in the area is growing and growing. It is drawing students from far and wide because they have heard about the quality of teachers and education here. Other students had been attending Dwankhozi since grade 1 or grade 4. They explained how much it has changed over the years – new buildings, more teachers, clean water nearby.
The longer we sat interviewing students, the more younger children gathered outside the windows to peak in and watch. We had quite an audience by the time we were finished! Many students had nerves in their interview, but were very excited to share and answer questions in English, so we all gave each one a round of applause after they finished, bringing huge smiles to their faces as they said thank you.
In the afternoon, we sat down with four secondary school teachers. These interviews lasted longer, as the Dwankhozi teachers are very articulate and have wonderful reflections on their jobs and living/working at the school. And for those who have visited Dwankhozi before, there are MANY new teachers. We probably only know half of the current 20, because many have begun teaching in the last year or so.
A theme that quickly came out: sacrifice. A handful of teachers have come from Lusaka, where there is power and running water available in home. Neither of those are available at Dwankhozi. It was a bit of a culture shock to some, being placed at Dwankhozi and beginning to understand they were going to teach faaaar off the grid in a place they had never been. But while they acknowledged it’s a challenge and a learning curve, every teacher shared that Dwankhozi had grown on them since arriving over the last year and a half. The words ‘zeal for learning’ came up multiple times from teachers when talking about the students. Kids are passionate about learning. They are focused. They want to be at school. For the teachers, that fuels their own passions. And while there continues to be needs at the school, each of them recognized the incredible progress that was being made – and were so grateful for the support of Dwankhozi Hope. That was never lost on them. It was humbling to hear. We just want to do more, more, more to support them. Mark and were cleaning up and each of us remarked on just what a high quality teaching staff was coming to this school. Students are in very, very good hands – and it has been a gift to get to know them this week. We are looking forward to sharing those interviews with you when we’re back – at our events, over social media, etc. They are too good to get buried in a photo library.
After packing up and loading in to Moses’ car, we made a quick stop on the way home: the Farm. The farm is a small turn off onto a dirt road from the paved arterial, where a small home sits beneath a collection of mango trees…home to the Masala parents. Moses’ mother (as well as Idah’s, Maurice’s, and the other eight children!). The family matriarch was sitting beneath a thatched grass overhang cutting okra into a bowl for dinner. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more radiant 80 year-old woman.
We visited with her for a few minutes and ate corn on the cob that had just finished steaming over the fire, picked straight from their small farm just fifty yards away. This is the woman who raised ten children in the rural areas of Zambia, all of whom grew up to succeed and school and get a college education. And not just her children, but she has helped raised grandchildren, nephews, nieces. Multiple generations. I felt like I was in the presence of royalty. She graciously allowed a quick picture, and I’m glad because words wouldn’t be enough.
We’ll call it quits for tonight. Thanks for following along. Looking forward to sharing more stories with you tomorrow.